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Cocktail Avenue

EvelynKim DavisEvelyn Drinkery, Avenue C

When I moved to the Avenue C neighborhood more than a decade ago, cocktail choices were pretty much limited to a mojito at Esposito’s, or a cosmopolitan at the world music lounge Lava Gina. Now that the city has bartenders muddling, and measuring, and chipping blocks of designer ice, from Chelsea to the Lower East Side, and from Bushwick to the Bronx, Alphabet City (as nobody calls it any more) hasn’t been left behind.

The East Village’s most vaunted drinks may be made at Death & Co. on East 6th Street, but with The Third Man finally open, in the former Lava Gina (and Vibrations) space, Avenue C now boasts an impressive battery of cocktail bars.

Louis 649 is a step or two off the Avenue, on East 9th Street, just past Brix Wine Store. It’s a veteran of some eight years standing, although when it first opened its concentration was on live jazz, and its drink selection limited. Somewhere along the way it reinvented itself as a serious cocktail bar, offering a long list of vintage potions, like the “Last Word” as well as its own creations, all made by bartenders willing to go off-menu and improvise–a cocktail-lover’s dream.

Louis 649Kim DavisLouis 649

The Summit Bar has been around a few years too. A young crowd hugs the long, curved, black bar; the music pumps; but staff will studiously pour tinctures and infusions to make the “John Lee Hooker” (whisky, lemon and bitters, topped with Lagunitas “Hop Stoopid” ale), or the “Born and Raised” (honey bush tea-infused Scotch, sweet vermouth, agave, and orange bitters).

I recall the last night of Micky’s Blue Room at 171 Avenue C, with Lenny Kaye of the Patti Smith band blasting chords in the back room. Micky’s is long gone, and its successor Teneleven closed earlier this year. Haunting the two room space now is Evelyn Drinkery. Smooth jazz has taken over in the back room; rich and potent concoctions up front. I tried a Fort Watson, which–with oloroso sherry as well as Bourbon, Carpano Antica vermouth, and bitters–was a stirring elaboration on a Manhattan. Read more…

Texas Holdup: Gunpoint Robbery Leads to Closure of Poker Club

New York City Poker Tour storefrontIan Duncan The Avenue C poker club was robbed at gunpoint on Saturday. It has now closed. Below: a joker marks the club’s door.

Six card players were robbed at gunpoint late Saturday night in a poker club on Avenue C, according to police reports. Two armed men entered the New York City Poker Tour club shortly before 11 p.m. and ushered the players into a closet before robbing them. One player – identified by owner Jeremy Martin as Michael C. – had just returned from a successful night at a casino and was carrying $4,500 in cash.

New York City Poker Tour front doorIan Duncan

The club had closed on Saturday night, but Mr. Martin and a few other players were inside after hours. The robbers knocked at the door and were let in. They quickly rounded up the players, took their cash and left.

Mr. Martin believes that he was “set up” by one of the players, because the gunmen shook down Michael first, before ordering the other players to empty their pockets.

Mr. Martin said no one was hurt in the robbery, but according to police reports, one person was punched in the face by the attackers. The robbers escaped with $6,500 in cash, a driver’s license and a Medicaid card.

Read more…

Liquor License Transfer Approved

Banjo Jim'sMeghan Keneally The transfer was approved for Banjo Jim’s.

The State Liquor Authority Committee of Community Board 3 Monday night endorsed the transfer of the liquor license at Banjo Jim’s, the popular bluegrass bar on Avenue C.

The transfer of the bar’s liquor license was said to be the only issue left to be resolved before the bar was sold to an ownership group led by Robert Ceraso. The next step is for the Community Board to pass along its recommendation to the State Liquor Authority.

The new license allows for acoustic guitar accompanied by microphone amplification and DJs up to two times per week. The hours will remain the same as they are at Banjo Jim’s currently — 5 p.m. to 4 a.m. throughout the week, and then from noon until 4 a.m. on the weekends. Few other details were finalized at Monday’s meeting, except that the signage will change — perhaps unsurprising since Mr. Ceraso has indicated that he will depart from the bluegrass theme and opt for an “artisanal” motif, which may not fit with the large banjo on the current sign over the bar’s front door. The bar’s new doors will be barn-style with glass windows that can be lifted and opened in the summer months.

Debating an ‘Artisanal’ Vision for a Bar

Banjo Jim'sMeghan Keneally. A staple of the East Village music scene, the future of Banjo Jim’s is up for approval.

After the blogger EV Grieve reported that changes may be coming to Banjo Jim’s, a popular bluegrass bar on Avenue C, locals took to their keyboards and headed to the blog’s comments section in anguish.

The bar’s prospective owner, Robert Ceraso, told the blog that he will be presenting a plan to the State Liquor Authority Committee of Community Board 3 tonight asking that the liquor license for the bar be tranferred to he and his partners. In describing his vision for his bar, Mr. Ceraso said that he envisioned it as an “artisanal neighborhood cocktail bar.” And that did him in.

Commenters skewered his use of the word, likening it to buzzwords of trends past, and immediately branded him as one of the big bad developers swooping in to discard the East Village of old.

One commenter, Chris Flash, wrote: “Yet another cool unpretentious music venue lost on the LES, to be replaced by yet ANOTHER yuppie dive, as if Ceraso’s dive will be different from any other dive!!”

Another, Bowery Boogie, said: “Missing Banjo Jim’s already. Artisinal is one of those buzz words that makes me puke every time.”

Mr. Ceraso said that the reaction was not totally unexpected.

“I knew there was going to be some backlash,” Mr. Ceraso said in a telephone interview. “People don’t like change and they turned me into some crazy guy that wants to change the neighborhood.”
Read more…

Branches, Leaves and Quite a Fuss

DSC_0556Ian Duncan Two bloodgood plane trees in front of the Village East apartments on Avenue C have been cited as a danger by residents.

There they are. The pair of them, standing on Avenue C as plain as day, unaware of the trouble they’ve been causing.

They being, not two juvenile delinquents, but twin bloodgood plane trees that recently arrived unannounced on the sidewalk in front of the Village East co-op.

The issue of arboreal interlopers blew up at a Community Board 3 parks committee meeting on June 16. Anne Johnson, a board member and resident at Village East, said it was unfair of the parks department, acting with the Lower East Side Ecology Center, to plant trees without consulting residents.

“We want them placed somewhere else,” Ms. Johnson said at the meeting. “They are a danger,” she added, arguing that they present an obstacle to wheel chair users.

Currently the trees are bounded by bright yellow tape stamped with the word “caution.”

In an e-mail message, Ms. Johnson emphasized that residents were displeased by the placement of the trees and others approached by The Local last week seemed similarly miffed. Village East has its own active buildings and grounds committee and Ms. Johnson cited one resident’s concerns that the trees will distract observers from Village East’s existing planters.
Read more…

Loisaida Through The Lens

Marlis Momber, a German-born photographer, has documented the dramatic evolution of Loisaida, her home, for decades.

South of 14th Street and north of Houston, east of Avenue A to the East River, Loisaida is all but unknown to some late-coming East Villagers. Though time and gentrification have transformed the neighborhood, Loisaida’s streets still reflect its distinct culture and history.

Many of the murals that are a signature of Ms. Momber’s photographs have faded, but her body of work helps explain the Loisaida we see today.

During a walk through Loisaida, Ms. Momber describes a community that is more than a sign tacked onto Avenue C; Loisaida — a community, a culture, a past not forgotten.

NYU Journalism’s Molly O’Toole reports.